Managing Partner, Executive Corporate Chef
Chef Lee Hefter credits his success as much to being a dedicated student as to his culinary gifts. The inspiration and encouragement he has received from mentors along his path have given Hefter the keys to realizing his vision. Driven by a passion for inventive and sublime cuisine, as well as dedication to training and management, Hefter's kitchen offers an impressive breadth of sophisticated dishes to diners night after night.
As Managing Partner and Executive Corporate Chef of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, as well as Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events, Hefter is responsible for developing new fine dining menu concepts and maintaining the legendary quality and innovation established by Wolfgang Puck more than 25 years ago.
Hefter has always been an avid student of food. He learned to cook in order to satisfy his curiosity about the unusual flavors of the Chinese and Italian take-out dinners his family frequently shared. His apprenticeship began as a teenager in New Jersey- and New York-area establishments. As head of a top New Jersey country club by the age of 21, Hefter spent four years developing his strong management skills.
Eager for change, Hefter migrated west. In San Francisco, he connected with Chef Barbara Tropp, an important guiding force in his career. Hefter spent two years at Tropp's China Moon Cafe, one of California's top Asian-inspired restaurants. While working at Tropp's, Hefter was pursued by Wolfgang Puck. Soon after, Hefter came to the original Spago in West Hollywood in 1993, where he worked as sous chef for two years.
As his most influential mentor, Hefter credits Puck with teaching him to realize his culinary vision - emphasizing the purity and simplicity of good food. At Puck's direction, Hefter worked his way through Europe's two - and three-star restaurants - L'Ousteau de Baumaniere, L'Aubergarde and Troisgros among them - before returning to Los Angeles as the Chef at Puck's Granita restaurant in Malibu. At Granita, Hefter began to make a name for himself, drawing patrons from all over Los Angeles, earning high marks with the food press.
In late 1996, Puck tapped Hefter to supervise the kitchen at Spago, Hollywood, to prepare for his future role as chef of Spago, Beverly Hills and continue his duties at Granita until his successor was in place. By opening in April 1997, Hefter was pleased to focus his efforts solely on Spago, Beverly Hills. With Puck, Hefter has created an elegant menu emphasizing the best ingredients available, seasoned with influences from other cultures. The wide array of dishes changes daily, undergoing significant metamorphosis each season. Hefter is acclaimed by reviewers for the wonderful flavors and consistent high-quality of Spago's cuisine.
Under Hefter's creative culinary direction of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, he has created an exciting, casual bar & grill concept in Las Vegas, Tokyo and Atlantic City. In more recent acclaim, projects include Spago, Maui, at the Four Seasons in Wailea, and the "Red Hot" CUT steakhouse at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.
Hefter also takes care that the high-volume catering arm of Puck's enterprise holds to the same standards of quality and invention for which Spago is synonymous. Wolfgang Puck Catering executes catered film premieres, high-profile charity dinners, award shows and private parties.
In 1997, Hefter was named by Food & Wine magazine as "Best New Chef" and by Restaurants & Institutions as one of the "Best Young Chefs in America"" plus nominated as a "Rising Star" by the James Beard Foundation. In 2004, he was awarded the Prestigious "Chef of Merit" by Bon Appetit Magazine. In 2005, Hefter won the coveted James Beard Award for "Best Chef – California." In 2007, Hefter was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award for "Outstanding Chef." Lastly, Hefter and his team at the steakhouse CUT were nominated for "Best New Restaurant" by the James Beard Foundation.
In November 2007, The Michelin Guide announced Hefter and his team at Spago and CUT received highly coveted star ratings in the first Los Angeles edition. Spago, Beverly Hills received two stars and CUT received one star, both reflecting each restaurant's exceptional culinary achievements.
Hefter's continued passion for food and pursuit of excellence forecast more delicious meals, devoted fans and accolades in the years ahead.
The Managing Partners for Wolfgang Puck are as passionate about music as Chef Puck. Connect with Lee Hefter by listening to his favorite tunes on the Partners' Playlist.
"Our philosophy is to create a culinary experience where we combine the absolute best ingredients – prepared simply yet elegantly, but also fun and creative – with global flavors paired with great service and excellent wines." - Lee Hefter